Book Review: Walk with Me

Authors: Jairo Buitrago & Rafael Yockteng

Every time I travel to Vancouver, I pass by a neighborhood so stricken with poverty that I my heart screams inside. I always look out for the kids living there. I wonder if their imagination helps them to survive. If they have someone holding their hand when they need it.

Walk with me.

I have said these words many times to kids who were stuck in a situation. I have said it to myself when I needed my thoughts to get into motion.

Walking away from a situation.
Walking to get a new point of view.
Walking to feel a supporting and warm hand holding onto mine.
Walking to be free of worry. Sometimes with no words at all.

The cover of Walk with me by Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng shows a little girl holding a flower as an offering to a giant lion sitting opposite to her. Behind them is what it seems like, the big anonymous jungle of the city. The girl is not afraid, she is just asking for companionship to walk the long walk home together, to face the dangers on the way together, to do daily chores with her. I found myself smiling at this child so filled with imagination.

Throughout the story I feel her self empowerment. I never see that this girl lost hope despite the fact that her family lives in poverty and that something terrible must have happened to this family.

My perception changed when I see their empty home. When mom arrives at the bus stop after a long work day the girl invites her imaginary friend to stay and through a photograph you learn about the “lion”, the one that is not there, the one that is being missed. I stop breathing for a moment feeling a knot in my throat shaped by my own memories.

I meet many kids while working as kids’ yoga teacher and these children reserve a forever space in my heart.
I met one little boy, I call him “T”. T’s family had trouble and he was removed from his home. When I first saw him, he seemed shy, even scared. He never laid down to rest in yoga class, he never closed his eyes. While other children always asked me to put my hand on their back, he would always shake his head. Many months have passed since we first met. Now he comes running to the door when I enter the classroom to give me a hug and during relaxation time, he reaches out his little hand and he nods for, “Yes, hold my hand”.

I walk with him for a while.

 

Title: “Walk with Me” 

Authors: Jairo Buitrago & Rafael Yockteng
Publisher: Groundwook Books
Recommended for children ages 3 to 9
Hardcover: $18.95, available at our Kinder Books store. 

Categories: social issues, friendship, family, parents, community, feelings, emotional

 


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Book review: They All Saw A Cat

For today’s review I chose a title that reminds me of the arrival of one of our furry family members.

They all saw a cat” by Brendan Wenzel is a funny, thoughtful and smart story about how perspective shapes what we see. Beautifully illustrated and imaginative, this picture book shows kids and adults that even when things stay the same, they can look very different depending on your point of view or the circumstances surrounding it.

In the story the cat arrives, just like ours did:

The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears, and paws…”, a familiar sentence that is repeated throughout the book, designed to keep kids engaged.

Our cat “Marvolo” came to us unexpectedly and under very funny circumstances. Nobody really expected him, nobody was prepared to have a cat in our house.

Each family member perceived and welcomed him in their own unique way.

My daughter showed her disappointment right away. She had dreamed of having a tiny kitten and not a giant four year old Maine Coon who reminded her of a raccoon more than her cherished vision of a playful and adorable fluff ball.

My son was in a state of shock and awe, continuously shaking his head in disbelief that I had spontaneously decided to open my heart to another furry friend in the house.

Then there was my husband. The cat took note of his territorial stance and classic male competitive streak and promptly hid from him.

Our dog was…

Playful?

Surprised?

Questioning my loyalty?

They all saw a cat” is thought provoking and a great conversation starter to talk to kids about their feelings but even more than that, it opens up a conversation about how they feel they are seen by others.

In this book many animals perceive the cat and in the end, the reader is left with an open ended question, a self reflection of the cat. It’s just a cat. Perceived differently by each animal in the story.

For older children I would go as far as using the book as a conflict resolution idea. Haven’t we all heard from a teary eyed kid: “X…said, she/he doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.” We’ve probably all asked our kids, “What happened?” and then learned about the different perspectives in their story.

If you want to dive even a little deeper then you’ll find that this story is also about science. You can discuss animals’ living environments, a bee’s eye sight, the food chain, senses…or train your memory by matching the animals and their feelings according to the story (listening skills!).

This story is a celebration of observation, self reflection, curiosity, empathy and imagination. It’s an appreciation of everyone and their contribution to a community.

Here are four conversation sparking questions that can create greater awareness around the concept of perception for your child:

How does your mom see you?

What about your teacher?

Has your behavior changed the way your friends look at you?

Why do you think this person acted a certain way?

Title: “They all saw a cat”

Author: Brendan Wenzel
Publisher: Chronicle Books (August 30, 2016)
Recommended for children ages 3 to 9
Hardcover: $23.99, available at our Kinder Books store.

Categories: self awareness, perception, animal lover, science, listening skills, communication
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Book review: I’m Dreaming of…

For this week’s children’s book review, I chose a goodnight story perfect for our youngest readers. This title has a special place in my own heart as it reminds me of the days when I carried my daughter through the house saying goodnight to everything that was important to her, do you do that with your children? We walked around noticing the treasures of our home, big and small from the trees in our backyard, Max, the goldfish, photos of grandparents hanging on the wall, the stars, even spiders showing up in our 100 year old house by the woods… AS a family, we savoured this ritual of deep appreciation and connection for the things our family needed and the things that needed us.

I’m Dreaming of…written by Musqueam, Coast Salish author and artist Melaney Gleeson-Lyall, is a celebration of connection and an ode to the world we live in. The language in the story is rich and poetic, the illustrations by various First Nation and Native artists are calming and beautiful.

This is a bedtime story but it is much more than that. It is an expression of gratitude towards all living things, a story to re-connect you and your loved ones after a busy day.

It is at this time of the day when our thoughts slow down and we can experience surroundings and feelings more deeply. The time when the flowers seem to impress with their most intense smells, the time when we listen to the wind dancing in the leaves, the time when we are grateful for another day on earth and for everything we are sharing it with.

On the cover a bear is resting in a tree, a feather is silently falling, the moon and the stars are brightening up the dark sky signaling the beginning of quiet time. In the distance we see houses where we live.

The book is dense and rich with the beauty and power of nature. In it your child will meet jumping salmon enjoying the rushing waters as their playground, soaring eagles, running deer in lush forests, robins singing a lullaby, rivers glowing like stars, ravens chatting about their day, whales swimming in the oceans with city lights in the distance, floating otters, moose walking through water in a fall like scene.

This is how we live. 
This is our place. 

A symbiosis of humans and nature as it is perceived by a child.

The final picture appears like fireworks celebrating the joy of life brought to the reader by a special messenger – the hummingbird alongside a big, calm moon announcing the end of the day.

Time to turn off the last light in town.

Often I hear from people that the art of storytelling seems to disappear in the hustle and bustle of life. First Nation storytellers like Melaney are keeping this tradition alive and it is a gift I truly appreciate it for myself and my children.

I remember the day I met Melaney Gleeson-Lyall at a First Nations conference. I actually didn’t meet her at first, I heard her singing the most beautiful song in a language I didn’t understand.

But I felt it. 
Deeply.

I closed my eyes for a moment in this busy conference environment and suddenly I heard eagle sounds so real, I imagined a soaring eagle above us. What I learned from this experience was to just stop and listen sometimes.

As a teacher of Early Childhood Education I highly value that the publisher of this book, Native Northwest, supports Aboriginal Early Childhood Development programs with partial proceeds of this book.

I’m dreaming of…by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall, Native Northwest Vancouver, 2017

Retail Price $10.00, board book, recommended for ages 0-4

Get your copy at: https://store.kinderbooks.ca/Im-dreaming-of-Animals-of-the-Native-Northwest

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Book Review: Sidewalk Flowers

Recently, in one of my kids yoga classes, we played charades. The task was to express a word through yoga poses and to include a breathing exercise. A group of four kids ages 8-10, started walking in all directions staring at a pretend phone or holding one by their ears. One stopped in chair pose still doing the same phone gesture, not looking up. Another child laid down still looking at the screen.

The riddle’s answer was PEOPLE. When the word came out I could hear an “Ah, yes!”. I was touched to see how these young kids perceive society these days as absent, lonely and not breathing.

Immediately, I was reminded of a story that I hold very close to my heart. “Sidewalk Flowersby Jon Arno Lawson/Sydney Smith.

When I saw this book for the first time, I was attracted by the dandelions on the cover and the girl with the red coat. Books can trigger memories and this one certainly did it for me. I owned a red coat as a little girl.

After passing pages filled with lovely flowers and birds you become part of a black and white world. Except for the little girl in the red coat holding her dad’s hand. No words, just pictures.

Dad is on the phone.
Distracted.
In a hurry.
Always.

As the reader turns the pages and fills the story with their own words, more colours emerge, creating a hopeful, connected and kind feeling just like the little girl does with her gestures.You feel warm and included with every page you turn.

With wordless books children become creative storytellers. Pre-and early readers build important literacy skills such as listening skills, vocabulary, comprehension and structure of stories. By using words of their very own, struggling readers gain confidence and motivation as they read this story time and time again, including new observations and feelings with each
read. This book is also beneficial for children who are being raised in multi language households.

This quiet book is a celebration of children, the importance of small things and small gestures it’s a story for everyone.

Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson/Sydney Smith, Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2015 Retail Price: $16.95, Hardcover

Get your copy at: store.kinderbooks.ca/sidewalk-flowers

Me at age 3 holding my mother’s hand…

 

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